AMHERST – Employees at Amherst’s Weston Bakeries continue to make miracles happen in the community.
Staff and management at the Amherst and Area Industrial Park plant were in a celebratory mood early Friday after presenting a cheque for more than $116,000 to the Mental Health and Addictions program to support mental health programs for children and youth up to age 19.
“This is going to be a huge difference-maker for us because it’s going to provide funding for children and youth to have opportunities to engage in activities they would never have the ability to do so and it also supports our families who have to go to the IWK for treatment because that’s a huge cost,” Kim Blackbeard, child-youth team lead for Mental Health and Addictions, said. “We’re very excited about this because we’ll be able to do so much more to help children and youth.”
At any given time there are between 600 and 950 Cumberland County children and youth in need of care. Some need immediate attention, some need ongoing support and some need to be given the tools so they can learn to cope with life’s challenges.
Because of the support of the employees at Amherst’s Weston Bakeries and matching funds from George Weston Limited’s Weston Seeding Stronger Communities Initiative, the Cumberland Health Care Foundation has worked with Mental Health and Addictions to create new guidelines to address numerous needs and it has established a new mental health and addictions funding team consisting of mental health and addictions professionals, restorative justice and legal aid representatives and members of the health care foundation’s board of directors and staff.
The team will gather and assess funding applications and manage the distribution of aid and will be helping families across Cumberland County with travel for therapies, help cover the cost of psychiatric assessments in a timely way, providing respite for parents and youth through camps and self-esteem building activities and much more.
“Throughout all of the fundraising and planning we’ve been doing we’ve heard from many people who have been associated with child and youth mental health over the years,” foundation managing director Gwen Kerr said. “They are unanimously over the moon about the positive attention and about the enormous possibilities that lie ahead. We are clearly on the right path and are very excited about being able to reach out to the children and youth who have been misunderstood, mislabeled, and often undervalued for far too long.”
Plant manager Tyler McLeod said he’s proud of his team at the Amherst facility and the partnerships it has created with various community organizations over the last eight years. Year by year, the company, with its 100 or so employees, raises the most money among the other Weston operations in Canada.
“We have great employees here and a great community,” McLeod said. “I’m so proud of their commitment and their generosity. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”
He also thanked Kerr and her team at the foundation as well as Mental Health and Addictions. Together, he said, it was a recipe for success that’s going to help so many young people.
When the program started, McLeod never envisioned it getting as big as it has. From the first donation of $37,000 to Maggie’s Place in 2010, the program surpassed the $100,000 mark in 2014 when it supported the Piece By Piece Autism Support Group.
It has also supported early intervention ($51,000 in 2011), Camp Tidnish ($76,000 in 2012), the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign ($92,000 in 2013), IWK ($96,000 in 2015) and Autumn House ($106,000 in 2016).
Each year, the employees vote on the charity they wish to support and then participate in fundraisers throughout the year with the corporation matching what’s raised by the employees and the community.
With Friday’s donation, the amount raised surpassed the $780,000 mark.